Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
(Here I shall continue to reproduce the notes taken during my conversations with J., from 1982 to 1990. Those who would like to read the conversations already published should see the previous issues of Warrior of the Light Online)
We are sitting in a garden in a French town.
– Deep down, people complain, but they love routines – I said.
– Of course, and the reason is very simple: routines give them the false sensation of being safe. Thus, today will be exactly like yesterday, and tomorrow will bring no surprises. When night falls, part of the soul complains that nothing different was experienced, but another part is content – paradoxically, it is for the same reason.
“Evidently this safety is completely false; no one can control anything, and a change always appears at the moment one least expects it, taking us surprise and with no chance to react or fight.
– If we are free to decide that we want a uniform life, why does God force us to change it?
– What is reality? It is that which we imagine it to be. If many people “think” that the world is like this or like that, everything around us crystallizes, and nothing changes for some time. However, life is a constant evolution – social, political, spiritual, on whatever level it may be. In order for things to evolve, it is necessary for people to change. As we are all interlinked, sometimes destiny gives those hindering evolution a push.
– Generally in a tragic way…
– Tragedy depends on the way you see it. If you chose to be a victim of the world, anything which happens to you will feed that dark side of your soul, where you consider yourself wronged, suffering, guilty and deserving punishment. If you choose to be an adventurer, the changes – even the inevitable losses, since everything in this world changes – can cause some pain, but will soon thrust you forward, forcing you to react.
“In many oral traditions, wisdom is represented by a temple, with two columns at its entrance: these two columns always have names of opposite things, but in order to illustrate what I mean, we will call one Fear and the other Desire. When a man stands at this entrance, he looks at the column of Fear and thinks: “my God, what will I find further ahead?” Then he looks at the column of Desire and thinks: “my God, I’m so accustomed to that which I have, I wish to continue living as I have always lived.” And he remains still; this is what we call tedium.
– Tedium is…
– Movement which ceases. Instinctively, we know we are wrong, and we revolt. We complain to our husbands, wives, children, neighbors. But, on the other hand, we know that tedium and routine are safe havens.
– Can a person remain his whole life in this situation?
– He can be pushed by life, but resist and remain there, always complaining – and his suffering will be useless, will teach him nothing.
“Yes, a person can stand for the rest of his days facing one of the many doors he should go through, but he must understand that he has only truly lived up to that point. He may continue to breathe, walk, sleep and eat – but with less and less pleasure, because he is already spiritually dead and does not know it.
“Until one day when, as well as his spiritual death, physical death appears; at that moment God will ask: “what did you do with your life?” We must all answer this question, and woe betide those who answer: “I remained standing at the door.”
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